Retreat, Defeat and Escape
Tartan: Charlie's Trews
Back to Scotland
The withdrawal from Derby was the critical turning point of the '45 and the beginning of the end for the Jacobite cause. Prince Charles was totally opposed to the idea of retreat of course and said, 'Rather than go back, I would wish to be dead and buried twenty feet underground.' However, on this occasion he could not change a sufficient number of minds and on 6 December the Highlanders began the march north. In retreat the Jacobites found that the population was not so pleased to see them and instead of pealing bells and cheering crowds they were greeted with disdain, anger and stone throwing. On December 18, a group of government cavalry was encountered south of Clifton. A skirmish occurred and the government dragoons were beaten and driven off by the ferocity of the Highlanders’ attack. The Duke of Cumberland lost forty or fifty dead and wounded and five Highlanders were killed.
The Prince spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day shooting at Hamilton Palace. At the beginning of January Charles entered a largely undefended Glasgow and reviewed his army on Glasgow Green. Recent recruits from the Highlands had strengthened the Jacobite army and now Charles had 9,000 men under his command. His next objective was to take the town and castle of Stirling. The Marquis de Mirabelle, was put in charge of the siege as he came to the Prince with a reputation of being one of the finest engineers in France. It was soon discovered, 'that his knowledge as an engineer was extremely limited.' Mirabelle sited his gun batteries in ineffectual positions, with the result that the castle remained in government hands and the rebels wasted several weeks to no useful purpose.
The government army commander Lieutenant-General Henry Hawley reached Edinburgh on 6 January and re-equipped his army. Nine days later he marched on Stirling with the primary intention of lifting the siege of the castle. On the way the Royal army camped in a field a little to the west of Falkirk. The Battle of Falkirk took place on 17 January and before it began the strength of the two armies was about equal. Both sides mustered about 8,000 troops, as the
Jacobites had decided to leave
1,000 men laying siege to Stirling Castle.
Both armies also possessed some artillery, although this played little
part in the conflict and the rebel guns did not even make it to the battlefield
before the conflict was over.
Despite the victory at Falkirk Lord George and the principal clan chiefs wrote to Charles arguing that the army was in no fit state to fight again and called for further withdrawal to the fastness of the Highlands. The Prince and O’Sullivan opposed withdrawal and argued that the army should not be so despondent just twelve days after defeating Hawley. Nevertheless on 1 February the withdrawal began with all the troops except those besieging Stirling castle marching north towards the River Forth and the Fords of Frew. The retreat quickly deteriorated into a full-scale flight with Lord George and O’Sullivan at loggerheads, each blaming the other for the disorder.
The Highland army crossed the River Tay at Aberfeldy on 4 February and Prince Charles spent a couple of nights at Menzies Castle. A day later he arrived at Blair Castle, where he broke his journey until 10 February as the guest of Duke William. Charles then marched north to Dalnacardoch where he spent two more nights while his men went on to Ruthven. Here they found the small
government garrison still commanded by Terrence Mulloy who, after his efforts in
successfully repelling a Jacobite attack the previous September, had been
promoted to Lieutenant. On this occasion Mulloy was outnumbered and surrendered
to the rebels who destroyed the
barracks with gunpowder.
The Prince joined his main force at Ruthven and the withdrawal continued
Prince Charles captured Inverness without a shot being fired and set up his headquarters at Culloden House, a few miles from Inverness. From February to April 1746 the Jacobites spent their energies in trying to consolidate their position in the area. Although they captured Fort Augustus both Blair Castle and Fort William remained in government hands. The enemy were gaining in strength and the Duke of Cumberland had been in Aberdeen for a month and was now marching north. The last battle was coming soon.
The Hanoverian forces reached Nairn, ten miles from the town, on 14 April. On the same day the Jacobite army marched out of Inverness and camped for the night at Culloden House. Prince Charles and Colonel O'Sullivan chose the battlefield where they would meet their enemy. The next day someone at the Council of War came up with the idea that perhaps a pre-emptive strike during the night could be a smart move. The Prince and his closest aides liked the idea. Even Lord George, mainly to do anything to avoid a daylight battle in what he considered to be an unsuitable position, agreed. As many troops were out foraging for supplies, the march towards Cumberland’s camp did not begin until eight in the evening. It soon became clear that this had not been such a good idea after all. With the leading troops perhaps as far forward as Kildrummie the decision was made that they would not be able to reach Cumberland's camp in darkness and the men were turned back.
Extract from "Walking With Charlie"
six o’clock in the morning on 16 April, 1746 the Highlanders were back where
they had started, on Drummossie Moor. According to Lord Elcho,
body seemed to think of nothing but sleep. The men were prodigiously tired with
hunger and fatigue, and vast numbers of them went into Inverness, and the
villages about, both to Sleep and to pick up what little nourishment they Could
gett. The principal officers went all to the house of Culloden and were so much
tired that they never thought of calling a Councill what was to be done, but
Every one lay’d himself down where he Could, some on beds, others on tables,
Chairs & on the floors for the fatigue and the hunger had been felt as much
amongst the officers as Soldiers.
eight o’clock news arrived that King George’s army had been sighted marching
towards the Highlanders’ position. Under these difficult circumstances Lord
George, Lochiel and others called for withdrawal to the field south of the Water
of Nairn. Here the impending battle might just be postponed for a few hours if
not a whole day, allowing perhaps two thousand additional troops to assemble and
fight. Even the Marquis
d’Eguilles tried and failed to
persuade the Pretender to retreat and regroup. He wrote to King Louis of his
vain I represented to him that he was still without half his army; that the
great part of those who had returned were without their targets—a kind of
defensive armour without which they were unable to fight to advantage; that they
were all worn out with fatigue by a long march on the previous night and for two
days many of them had not eaten at all for want of bread.
It was recognised that Cumberland was not going away and that there was not enough food to sustain the men for another march. Prince Charles’ obstinacy indicated that battle was inevitable. Drums beat and the pipes played the call to arms, to which about only 5,000 men immediately responded. It soon became clear that they were outnumbered and outgunned by Cumberland’s 2,400 horse and 6,400 foot soldiers. By midday the Jacobite army was drawn up in battle order. To the right and left were fields enclosed by stone walls that the commanders hoped would give the soldiers some protection. The MacDonalds of Keppoch, Glengarry and Clanranald were on the left of the front line. They were disgruntled and insulted at having been deprived of their traditional position on the right by the Atholl Brigade. These soldiers, although pleased at being granted a position on the right flank, were already complaining of the restrictions imposed by the stone wall and turf dyke of the Leanach enclosure. The centre of the line consisted of Macleans and MacLachlans, John Roy Stewart’s regiment, Frasers, Stewarts of Appin, Farquharsons, Lochiel’s Camerons and others including the loose alliance of clans that made up Clan Chattan. Prince Charles was in overall command with control of the front line falling to Lord George Murray on the right, Lord John Drummond in the centre and his brother, the Duke of Perth on the left. There was an odd assortment of artillery of varying calibre positioned in the centre and on the flanks of the front line. It was handled by badly trained men and was all out of action within ten minutes of the battle starting.
The second line, commanded by Brigadier Stapleton, was composed of Lord Lewis Gordon’s, Lord Ogilvy’s, Lord John Drummond’s and the Duke of Perth’s regiments. These together with the Royal Scots and the Irish Piquets made up the majority of the foot soldiers. The cavalry numbered only about 150 and some of these were unmounted. They were under the command of Lords Balmerino, Pitsligo and Strathallan. Despite the overwhelming superiority of the Duke of Cumberland’s forces and the fact that the Jacobite troops were weak from hunger and fatigue the Prince seemed convinced of their invincibility. He rode along the lines rallying flagging morale and telling his men 'Here they are comeing my lades, we’l soon be with them. They don’t forget, Glads-mur, nor Falkirk, & yu have the same Armes & swords, let me see yours. Il answer this will cut off some arms & heads today. Go on my Lads, the day will be ours & we’ll want for nothing after.' His speech over, Prince Charles stationed himself to the rear of the second line and was escorted by horse soldiers from Balmerino’s and FitzJames’ regiments.
Five hundred yards away William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland, was ready. In
the front line were Pultney’s, the Royal Scots, Price’s, Cholmondley’s,
Munro’s and Barrel’s regiments flanked by Cobham’s Dragoons and the Duke
of Kingston’s Light Horse. The second line contained Battereau’s,
Howard’s, Fleming’s, Bligh’s, Sempill’s and Ligonier’s regiments.
Behind them were the reserves commanded by General William Blakeney.
James Wolfe’s regiment was taken out of the second line and placed at right
angles to the left of the front line where it would later be used with fearsome
effect. The Campbell Militia was further forward and to the left of the front
line. Artillery was positioned between the front line regiments and the
firepower was greatly superior to that in the Jacobite lines. The gunners were
well trained and could fire each of the ten three-pounders every fifteen
seconds. Additional cannon and some mortars were positioned further back.
two armies were not directly opposite one another. The Atholl Brigades were
nearest the redcoats and the MacDonalds furthest away. The Prince’s army was
wedged between the walls of the Culloden enclosures with barely enough room to
stand, making correct deployment during the battle impossible. The opening shots
were fired by the Jacobite artillery and a minute or two later the enemy guns
replied with devastating effect. The deadly round shot sailed over the moor
ripping huge holes in the Jacobite lines. Colonel
Belford who commanded the government artillery spotted Prince Charles’ Royal
standard and the small group of horsemen surrounding him. Two cannons were
trained on the target and balls fell all around. The Prince’s horse was hit
and his groom was killed. Charles slunk away to safety in the steadings of
Culchunaig Farm, to the rear and right of his original position.
Belford now changed tactics and loaded his cannon with grapeshot, causing more
havoc in the Jacobite ranks. The Highlanders stood their ground in the face of
this withering fire for half an hour or so, waiting in vain for the shout of
‘Claymore’ that would signal their customary charge.
With all the Jacobite artillery out of action the government lines were
suffering no casualties and Cumberland was happy to wait and watch as
Belford’s gunners thinned the enemy ranks. If the Highlanders were to have any
chance at all a charge must be ordered quickly. Prince Charles was slow to make
the decision but at last the instructions were dispatched to both flanks of the
army. Lachlan Maclachlan was to take the message to Lord George but was
decapitated by a cannon ball on his journey. The orders eventually reached the
commanders but not soon enough for Clan Chattan at the centre of the line. The
Mackintoshes, MacGillivrays, MacBeans and others broke rank and surged towards
the guns of the Royal army. The clans on the right followed suit but the
MacDonalds on the left were still in a surly mood and held their position,
either ignorant of the orders or reluctant to join the battle.
Athollmen were restrained from forward movement by the Leanach dyke and veered
slightly left to become jumbled with the men of Clan Chattan who, perhaps to
avoid the worst of the boggy ground, had shifted to their right. Despite the
confusion the combined thrust of this screaming throng of Highlanders drove deep
into the left of the enemy lines. Barrel’s and Munro’s regiments took the
full force of the charge suffering perhaps two hundred casualties between them.
Highland charges relied on surprise and the ability to instil fear and panic in
the hearts of the enemy and the tactic had worked well enough in the past. This
time the wall of red coats and
white gaitered legs stood firm, and the muskets and artillery kept firing. The
Hanoverian front line was penetrated at tremendous cost to the clan regiments.
The Campbell Militia, together with Cobham’s and Lord Mark Ker’s dragoons
had broken down the walls to the right of Jacobite positions and outflanked Lord
George’s men. Wolfe’s regiment,
still positioned at right angles to the government front line, poured volley
after volley into the right of the Prince’s charging clansmen. The charge was
suicidal, Athollmen fell in huge numbers and of the twenty-one officers in Clan
Chattan, eighteen were killed. Stewarts, Frasers and Camerons fared no better
and of those who lived long enough to fight through the enemy front line many
were bayoneted to death by soldiers in the second. Lochiel survived the charge
but was felled by grapeshot and wounded in both ankles.
MacDonalds on the left were now in an impossible position. The Duke of Perth and
his brother did their best to motivate the men but by the time they were
prepared to advance, the right of the line was already retreating. Many
MacDonalds saw no action at all to the dismay of their chiefs. Keppoch fell to
enemy bullets in a gallant but fatal attempt to rally his men. The battle was
all but over and had lasted less than an hour. The Highlanders fled, pursued by
enemy cavalry and the retreat became a panic-stricken rout.
John Maclean of Kingairloch was killed on that fateful day and the last
entry in his journal sums up the whole unfortunate and bloody business in a few
all that pleased or was able to follow ther Collours marched out and was Drawn
in order of Battel about 2 musket shot from the Enemy they was waiting us in
very good order with their Artilary befor them and the wind and snow in ther
Backs. After a short stay and all the Disadvantages an Army could meete with as
to ther numbers they Doubled or tripled ours and all advantages of Ground and
wind and weather our Cannon began to play upon them and they upon us. After we
stayed about 10 minutes we wer ordered to march hastily to the Enemy which we
did Boldly. They began a smart fire of their Small Guns and Grape Shots from
there Cannons till we wer Beat Back with Great Losses our Right wing was flanked
and surrounded by the horse which did Great Execution.
again O’Sullivan places much of the blame for the disaster on Lord George
Murray’s shoulders. 'Ld
George says yt he lost a great many officers. Really I cant tell but he never
lost one nor a man before yt day, & if he had marched & attacked the
enemy the night before, all this misfortune wou’d be avoided.'
There were just three set piece battles in the ‘45 and Culloden was the only
one in which the rebels were defeated. However, they were so badly beaten that
all realistic hope of a Stuart restoration from this campaign was lost. How many
were killed in the battle and its aftermath is not accurately known. The Duke of
Cumberland probably exaggerated the number when he commented in his official
report, ‘By the best calculations we can make, I think we may reckon the
rebels lost 2,000 men upon the field of battle and in the pursuit.’
to the number of men in the rebel army killed at Culloden, it seems impossible
to ascertain what it was. The newspapers and magazines, published at the time,
make the number amount to 2000 or 3000. Other accounts make the number to be
less than 1000.'
It is probable that about 750 rebels were killed in the battle but many of the
wounded were slaughtered in its aftermath and so a total of between 800 and 1200
Jacobite dead seems about right. Government casualties were much smaller. John
Home lists the official total as 50 dead, 259 injured and 1 missing. These
numbers seem only to include regular army casualties with perhaps another 50
from the Campbell Militia and other volunteers. The disparity in casualties
between the protagonists illustrates the scale of defeat suffered by the
Prince’s army but in truth it could have been much worse. The battle so
quickly turned into a rout that although there were 14,000 men on the field no
more than 3,000 were engaged in the fighting. Many men were not able to fire
their muskets and several regiments on both sides saw little or no action. End
to the Islands
from "Walking With Charlie"
confusion after the battle the men of FitzJames’ Horse led Charles across the
River Nairn at the Ford of Faillie to relative safety. It was here that Lord
Elcho was reunited with the Prince and ‘found him in a deplorable state.’
The Prince was in shock and could not believe that his beloved Highlanders had
failed to put the enemy to flight in the same way as they had at Prestonpans and
Falkirk. The Pretender seemed to think that treason was the foundation of the
defeat and, according to Elcho, ‘appeared to be afraid of the Scotch as a
whole, thinking that they would be capable of giving him up to the Duke to
obtain peace and the £30,000 sterling that the King had offered for his head.
He appeared to be concerned only about the lot of the Irish and not at all about
that of the Scots.’ Lord Elcho asked if his Prince had orders for him and
was less than impressed by the reply.
told me that I might go anywhere I liked; as for himself, he was about to leave
for France. I told him that I was surprised at a resolution so little worthy of
a Prince of his birth, that it was unworthy to have engaged all this people to
sacrifice itself for him, and to abandon it because he had possibly lost a
thousand men in battle; that he ought to remain and out himself at the head of
the 9,000 men that remained to him, and live and die with them. But these
reasons made no impression on him. He told me he was determined to seek safety
in France: whereupon I left him, thoroughly resolved never to have any more to
do with him.
So began Charles’ long journey, running and hiding, until at last, and quite amazingly, he escaped into France and a life of exile. End
It is difficult to be sure what Prince Charles's intentions were at this time. Did he mean to rally his troops and somehow continue his campaign, or had he by now accepted the inevitability of defeat and so concerned himself only with escaping capture and sailing to France? Confusion over possible rallying points led Lord George to believe that Prince Charles had no intention of rallying his troops at Fort Augustus, Ruthven or anywhere else. Lord George wrote a letter of resignation to Charles on 17 April. It is a long, scathing and bitter letter which comments on Prince Charles's conduct of the campaign in general and places the blame for defeat at Culloden squarely on the shoulders of Colonel O'Sullivan. If this letter this letter arrived in Prince Charles's hands while he still had hopes of rallying his supporters, it is not surprising that he quickly decided that the game was up and so decided to flee. Charles never forgave Lord George for writing in such a manner and the letter ended the already difficult relationship between them.
Lochan Leum an t-Sagairt
The Prince marched to the west coast and on 20 April they reached Arisaig. On the evening of 26 April the Prince, Colonel O'Sullivan, Captain Felix O'Neil, Donald MacLeod, Ned Burke and other companions set out to sea making for the western isles and next morning they struggled into a creek at Roisinis (Rossinish) on the north-east point of Benbecula. Government militiamen and ships of the Royal Navy were everywhere in search of the Prince and his life became a series of unplanned escapes.
By 14 May Charles was pretty desperate and sent for Clanranald. He provided the Prince with Neil MacEachain to act as a guide.
Extract from "Walking With Charlie"
14 May MacEachain led Charles to a bothy in Glen Corradale on South Uist. This
proved to be an excellent refuge, as the glen is difficult to reach by land or
sea. Charles and his companions spent three happy weeks in reasonable comfort in
Corradale, hunting game, resting and being visited by supporters. The Prince was
relatively safe, had sufficient to eat and brandy to drink. Both Neil MacEachain
and Hugh MacDonald of Baleshare provide us with vivid snapshots of life at
Corradale. MacEachain tells us that the Prince, ‘took care to warm his stomach every morning with a hearty bumper of
brandy, of which he always drank a vast deal; for he was seen to drink a whole
bottle a day without being in the least concerned.’ Baleshare noted
Charles’ liking for brandy, ‘We
continued this drinking for 3 days and 3 nights. He still had the better of us,
and even of Boystill (Boisdale)
himself, notwithstanding his being as able a boullman, I dare say, as any in
Scotland.’ Politics were
often discussed and Baleshare leaves us with these illuminating comments
regarding difficulties with the Prince’s religion.
last I starts the question if his highness wou’d take it amiss if I should
tell him the greatest objections against him in Great Brittain. He said, Not. I
told him that Popery and arbitrary government were the two chiefest. He said it
was only bad constructions his enemys pat on’t. “Do you ‘no Mr M’Donald”
he says, “what religion are all the princes in Europe of?” I told him I
imagin’d they were of the same establish’d religion of the nation they
liv’d in. He told me then they had litle or no religion at all.
is during the stay in Corradale that we hear of the restorative powers of
‘treacle’, as any palliative liquor seems to have been called at the time.
Prince Charles was suffering from dysentery, which he attributed to drinking
milk. The Prince ‘took a loosenesse wch turned to a bloody flux’ and announced, ‘if
I had traicle, I’d be cured immediately.’ Remarkably,
‘Sullivan remembered yt he had a little pot yt he carried about him when he
was ill himself.’ The ‘traicle’ seems to have worked as we are told
that ‘in three days time the flux
caissed.’ Clanranald visited Corradale again and the clothes he brought
for Charles seem to have greatly impressed His Royal Highness. ‘When the Prince got on his highland Cloaths he was quite another man.
“Now,” says he leping, “I only want the Itch to be a compleat
The interlude could not last forever and one day MacEachain brought the bad news that soldiers were combing the neighbouring islands and that flight was called for yet again. At nightfall on 20 June, the Prince, Neil MacEachain and Felix O'Neil crossed South Uist, heading for Milton and a house owned by Angus MacDonald. Angus had a sister named Flora who kept house for him and looked after the cattle from a shieling at Ormiclate near Milton, and it was here that Prince Charles and Flora MacDonald first met.
the Sea to Skye
It was essential that Charles escaped from the Long Island and a plan was devised whereby the Prince be transported to Skye disguised as Flora's maid, Betty Burke. At 8 p.m. on 28 June, MacEachain, Flora, some boatmen and the Prince embarked for Skye. They landed at a place now called ‘Prince Charlie's Point' and walked to Monkstadt, the house owned by Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat. Sleat had heeded the advice of Duncan Forbes of Culloden and had not ‘come out’ for the Prince but fortunately was away serving the government in Fort Augustus. Sleat's wife, Lady Margaret, was an ardent Jacobite but had no wish to make life difficult for her husband. The news of the Prince's arrival had put her into a state of agitation, if not sheer panic, as government troops were everywhere. Conversations with Donald Roy MacDonald and Alexander MacDonald of Kingsburgh produced the suggestion that the Prince should be smuggled to the neighbouring island of Raasay and then back to the mainland where he could hope for more help.
Early Morning on Skye
Charles, still disguised as Flora's maid, must have made an incongruous sight as he walked towards Portree. The party reached Kingsburgh's house where the Prince stayed all the next day. From Portree the party rowed to Raasay but found that the island had been pillaged as retribution after Culloden. Cattle were slaughtered and houses burned, leaving the island unable to offer even the smallest hospitality. Prince Charles returned to Skye the very next day, desperate for help. . After some discussion Charles announced his intention to make for Strath in Mackinnon country and from there return to the mainland.
After his arrival in Mallaig the Prince's movements were without much pattern as he was continually hiding from troops who were determined to find him. The terrain is difficult and the travelling very hard in this most remote area of the British Isles. It seems that the party made their way to the east, south of Loch Beoraid and then north towards Glenshiel. On July 24 yet another MacDonald came into the Prince’s life when he brought them milk. This MacDonald was a member of the Glenmoriston men, a band of dispossessed Jacobites who subsisted by raiding government forces. Prince Charles was taken to their cave ‘in the Brae of Glenmoriston in a place called Coiraghoth’ where, 'his royal highness was lulled asleep with the sweet murmurs of the finest purling stream.'
enemy was constantly on the Prince's trail and he decided that he must journey southwards
towards Achnacarry and Loch Arkaig. Charles hoped to meet Lochiel as well
as hearing news from the two men from a
French ship who were reputed to be looking for him. On 20 August Lochiel's brother (Dr Archibald
Cameron) arrived with apologies that Lochiel's injuries made it impossible to
come himself. Charles decided to travel to
Lochiel's hideout and make plans for escape to France.
Lochiel was hiding with Cluny Macpherson and others in the wilderness of Ben Alder. The refuge was 'a very romantic comical habitation' called 'The Cage'. It was a primitive, two story shelter constructed from boulders and timber. This place was hidden in a thicket of trees and was
secure and reasonably comfortable. Cluny reasoned that if no ship could be found to take Charles to France then it would be possible to spend the winter undiscovered in the Cage.
In mid August the thirty-four gun L’Heureux and Le Prince de Conti with her thirty guns were despatched for Scotland and sailed into Lochboisdale on 4 September. Prince Charles learned of this good fortune and started out again for the west coast. When they reached Borrodale the Prince, Lochiel, Dr Cameron, and more than a hundred others boarded the ships. Just after midnight on 19 September 1746 the vessels sailed for France. The Jacobite rising of 1745 was over.
Who's who in the Jacobite Camp